We love beets. Beets in all forms – freshly steamed, pickled, shredded (in cakes or salads), roasted, grilled, mashed with butter, glazed with an orange sauce and lavender, as a salad garnished with goat cheese and pumpkin seed brittle …… You get the picture. And lots of our friends love beets, too. So, this year, we planted a lot of beets. In fact, we’re so enamored of beets (or maybe just enamored of the pin-up worthy pictures of beets in the seed catalogues that arrive during the dregs of winter) that we planted several kinds of beets – your standard blood-rich-red variety, golden beets, and even heirloom Chioggia beets (they’re just downright pretty. What can I say? I love artful food.).
So, to reiterate, we planted a lot of beets. And then, after their pretty little beet greens had emerged and were tossing so prettily in the spring breezes, we thought – what the hay – we’ve got some extra space, let’s plant some more beets. We’ll get a second crop. It’ll be good. And it was good. Great, even. Dare I say too good? I daresay! Despite forcing beets onto friends (kind of like zucchinis), and freezing and canning beets, and selling beets at the local farmers’ market …. well, we were still “blessed” with a veritable embarrassment of riches of ruddy root crop. We may have years worth of beets stockpiled in the freezer and in the pantry shelves.
And yet, even in late October, we still had a fridge shelf full of beets, just waiting to be processed in some fashion. We couldn’t face any more pickling or freezing, and were just about to turn them into lovely compost, when …… I stumbled onto a recipe for – ta-dah! …. beet chips. We tried them, and they were good. Very good. And beet chips shrink down into a much smaller space, and can be bagged up and packed away (at least here in dry-climate Montana) for future winter snacks.
So, for those of you who might have been similarly blessed this year, and still have a fridge full of beets, give this recipe for beet chips (from the June 2004 issue of Gourmet …. I still miss Gourmet) a try:
2 medium beets with stems trimmed to 1 inch (about 1 lb.)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
Peel beets with a vegetable peeler, then slice paper-thin with slicer (we used a mandolin), using stems as handles. Bring water and sugar to a boil in a 3-quart heavy saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add beets, then remove pan from heat and let stand 15 minutes. Drain beats in a colander, discarding liquid (we actually saved it and made more beet chips), then let stand in colander 15 minutes more. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 225. Line a shallow baking pan with nonstick liner (or parchment paper), then arrange beet slices snugly in 1 layer and season with salt and pepper. Bake beets until dry, about 1 hour. Immediately transfer chips to a rack to cool (chips will crisp as they cool).
Yummy Stuff! The recipe also included a curried sour cream as a dipping sauce, which we made the first time, but found the curried cream kind of “competed” with the chips, rather than complementing them, so we haven’t made that since.
On a similar kind of shrinking-and-drying-a-root-vegetable note, check out Quirky Kitsch Girl’s rendition of parsnip bacon. She inspired us to make it last night, and it was good. Really good!